Collecting Visual Fire Data


Research Issue

Both to increase a forest’s resiliency to wildfire and to gain the results desired from prescribed fire, land managers need insight into fire behavior, including how it moves through a forest, how fuel conditions influence fire’s movement, and the role of fire weather in fire behavior.

The ability to see fire from the inside as it moves through the forest, as well as the embers thrown by fire (called “fire brands”), would greatly advance research, but because video devices cannot survive the flames, scientists have had to rely on electronic sensors.

Our Research

At the Silas Little Experimental Forest in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, scientists with the Northern Research Station have contributed to work by Matt Hoehler, a research structural engineer at the National Fire Research Laboratory (NFRL), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Hoehler is developing a water-cooled 360-degree camera system, and the Northern Research Station is working with Hoehler and his partners at the New Jersey Forest Fire Service on designing burns in which it can be tested. As part of research funded by the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Joint Fire Science Program, scientists at the Silas Little Experimental Forest in New Jersey worked with Hoehler to create prescribed fire scenarios to test the recording system and evaluate the outcomes.

Expected Outcomes

Collecting visual fire data will greatly advance research (and ultimately, application) of prescribed fire, which could contribute to reducing the number of large, catastrophic fires experienced in the United States. Insight that makes prescribed fire more effective could contribute to healthier forests.

Research Results

In March 2019, the team successfully recorded a 360-degree video in two prescribed fires, including stereo sound inside of a compartment fire in one test.  You can view the 360-degree, interactive video below, or at

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Mike Gallagher, USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station, Research Ecolologist

Research Partners

  • Matt Hoehler, National Fire Research Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Rory Hadden, University of Edinburgh
  • Last modified: February 6, 2020